Community Board 3 Is One Righteous CB!!

Resolution passed unanimously (no abstentions)
by Community Board 3
March 24, 2009

WHEREAS: Arts and Entertainment is one of the largest industries in New York City with the economic impact of non-profit arts estimated to be $5.8 Billion and 40,460 jobs (NY Alliance for the Arts, 2005);

WHEREAS: Small to mid sized theaters and other arts organizations are an integral part of the Arts & Entertainment industry: A) as an entry point for actors, playwrights, and other artists, B) for the expression and exploration of the diverse culture of New York City communities, C) for sites of creativity, experimentation and innovation, D) for jobs;

WHEREAS: Small to mid sized theaters and other arts venues are closely tied to their local neighborhood small businesses, for instance one theater in CB3 had 70 restaurants contribute food to a recent festival;

WHEREAS: Small to mid sized theaters and other arts venues are economic drivers of local neighborhoods, and are crucial to the cultural and economic resilience and diversity of our neighborhoods;

WHEREAS: A cyclical economic downturn is the TIME TO INVEST in our neighborhood economic drivers and NOT TO DISINVEST in local economic drivers;

WHEREAS: The proposed disinvestment by the City and the State in community based arts may have an adverse multiplier effect on the small businesses and neighborhoods in which they are based;

WHEREAS: Foundation funding and government funding are down by 20-40 percent, yet small to mid sized theaters and other non profit arts venues have fixed real estate costs;

WHEREAS: Government funders recommendations to small to mid sized theaters and other arts organizations to cut back on programming in this time of crisis will not work, as programming constitutes the revenue for fixed costs and employment;

WHEREAS: CB3 has been a historic incubator and concentration of Off-Off Broadway theaters and has lost many of its small theaters in the late 90s and other performing arts venues in the last decade due to real estate competition and speculation, resulting in spaces constructed for performance being repurposed and irretrievably lost;

WHEREAS: Areas (CB2, CB4, CB5) surrounding CB3 have recently lost 25-30 percent of their small to mid sized theaters in the last five years predominantly due to real estate competition (New York Theatre Innovative Theatre Awards study, Dec 08);

WHEREAS: CB3 remains an important viable center for theater and performing arts;

WHEREAS: There exist innovative policies (land use, tax, public buildings)to sustain and retain theater and other performance venues that other cities and states have successfully used;

WHEREAS: The New York State Assembly member O’Donnell has proposed increased capital funding, and NYC Council member Alan Gerson’s office is proposing a bill to create a property tax abatement for commercial landlords that rent to non-profit cultural groups;

WHEREAS: CB3 Art Task Force Town Halls, and the recent joint Community Board Forum on small to mid sized theaters have been well attended with extensive expert and public testimony on the loss of theater and arts venues, the importance of theater and arts venues for local communities, and the severe financial crisis hitting small to mid sized theater.

THEREFORE IT BE RESOLVED: CB3 calls on its elected officials to acknowledge small to mid sized theaters and other arts organizations to be crucial to the cultural and economic resilience and diversity of our neighborhoods, to recognize the arts as economic drivers and integral to local small neighborhood businesses;

THEREFORE IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED: CB3 call on its elected officials to develop and adopt land use, tax and other governmental incentives and policies to retain and secure theater and other arts and cultural venue spaces and to retain arts and cultural organizations in our district and the City of New York.

THEREFORE IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED: CB3 calls on its elected officials, and the Governor, to act in order to restore the 100 percent funding cut from remaining funds of the New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA) for Fiscal Year 2009, to restore NYSCA funding to sustainable levels in Fiscal Year 2010, and not to discriminate against small to mid-sized theaters and arts organizations.

THEREFORE IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED: CB3 calls on its elected representatives of Congress to include small to mid-sized theaters and other arts organizations in job retention and economic stimulus funding, and not to discriminate against the arts and non-profits in urban stabilization, job retention, and other funding and policies assisting other small businesses.

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Next up: CB4 Theater Task Force Meeting, on Tuesday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m.

CB 4 Office, 330 W. 42nd St., Between 8th and 9th, 26th Floor.

Another Day in Sideburns

Went back to shooting Two Toms today. I love how long we’ve worked on this and having it come together. There’s lots of Italians on the set so we eat really well. 2 huge pans of ziti today. I love the freedom and intimacy of performing around the table. I’m getting away with murder clowning this character who is stoned. What I’m not crazy about is the time it takes. I don’t mind it, per se, but I had my call bumped up 2 hours but didn’t even get into make-up until 3 hours after I arrived. There are doing a good job but after your 10th hour, you get punchy. I try to use it as much as possible. I’m still conditioned to working in the theatre where you damn well better be 15 minutes early and going by the clock, especially on Equity shows with a stage manager who has a stopwatch. This is a different process where you work until you get it and then you move on. In theatre, you move on knowing you will get it when you go back through it (hopefully). When you aren’t involved in what’s happening, you hopefully are set free so you can go learn your lines or do other things like go over fight choreography or work on your accent. This just keeps plugging along.
The cast and crew for this are great. All of them are truly wonderful people. Ok, every group has to have a couple of bad apples but I do hope I get to stay friends with most of these guys and gals for years to come. Jason each of us a picture in costume. With my fake sideburns and Hawaiian shirt, I look like Wolverine meets a surfer dude. Some of the takes are outrageous. I think Jason will have a nice movie on his hands. I have been trying to set up spin-off ideas for a romantic comedy/horror film. Stay tuned.
On the American Badass front, I sent out more email blasting to press and people on my list. I’m getting a little better at that. I don’t know how it will pan out. I am not going to send out to anyone again, except to write personal things to specific people I really want to have come out. I don’t like blasting. I also learned gmail will lock you down if you send out too many emails or if you have too many bounce back at you, which I did with some weird bounce of 59 hotmail emails. I’m not comfortable talking myself up like I’m a refreshing can of soda or the sports car. But you have to do it, otherwise you run into tree falling in the woods territory. That truly sucks.
I had one solo where I got to the theatre and had no reservations. Being an optimist, I stayed thinking there had to be at least a handful of walk-ups. No one. I did the show for the artistic director and treated it as a special extra rehearsal. I say one in the audience is a rehearsal; 2 is an audience. 4 with some energy and receptiveness are the bedrock of a good audience. In any audience of 100 hundred people you usually have a couple or 3 ringleaders and people fall into camps with them. A good laugher helps train the rest of the audience. An annoying laugher can just make things worse.
Lately I have been giving quite a bit of thought to breaking my addiction to laughter. It’s a form of a need for approval and seeking recognition. It’s dirty money. I think laughter as a by-product is good but as a goal it tends to poison things. I rely on it at times as measure of whether the audience is there with me. Do they get it? Are they making connections? Is this hitting them on a certain level? But then, I also reach out for it as a balancing bar when feeling insecure about crossing the tightrope. Do they like me? Am I worthy of them? Will they go all the way to the end of the show with me or will I need to wrangle them the whole way?
Once I have a show down, I can let some focus go toward indirect energy being put out by the audience. It’s clear who is listening and who has tuned me out. There are times when I’ll go out and feel like I’ve reminded the whole place of stuff they avoid thinking about and have done a huge social faux pas.
In certain styles of acting, thinking about the audience at all is wrong/bad/sinful but in solo work, it’s necessary. They become other characters in the piece. They give and take the way a scene partner might. There are times when there might be one person who is radiating displeasure. One day I will become crazy enough to stop the show and ask what’s wrong. I try to find other ways to that so as to not be confrontational but sometimes I just want to find out if there’s anything I can do to help them or let them know they are free to leave.
I don’t know what response this show will have. I think I will be pushing and pulling the audience at various times. I wrote another one without direct audience address. Should I expand this one, I want to put in one piece that goes right to the audience and brings them out a bit. With this, as long as I can keep the information going across my brain and my mouth moving, I should survive.
Carolyn took her slides and illustrations to Daniel’s to add them to Debby’s sound design and Evan’s film. She showed what they did while we watched the Oscars. It looks freaking great. They did an amazing job in just a few hours (on top of her spending a long time putting the images and drawings together). I’ll get Debby’s theme song for the show tomorrow. You deal so much with ingredients, you forget there’s a cake being made. Actually, this show is more like a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
I’m really fortunate to have a brilliant group of people working with me on this. Makes things easier and keeps me motivated. I need to find a great stage manager and my team will be pretty complete. We have 3 hours of tech on Tuesday in the Kraine. We have to be on the ball. This is when Maryvel will be bringing it with the lights.

Promoting We Will Go

Started the day watching McCain be recalcitrant. If he goes out the door because of a scandal and Huckabee gets the nomination it will be a very weird time. McCain’s wife looked pissed but that might just be from the plastic surgery. Then I went to an audition for Connecticut Lottery. It’s the third state lottery commercial I’ve auditioned for since last summer. It’s a meta-lottery for me. Chances of winning 1:40+.

Found a putter for my George W. Bush monologue. I went to a sports shop first and they were $109-$179. The one I got was $5.41 with tax at the Salvation Army on 8th St. It even has an American Flag sticker on it. Small but present. People looked at me a little funny as I walked with it to the Kraine Theater. In the papers today they said people have less time to play golf. I must’ve looked like a real gold-bricker.

Went on a 4-hour postcard “walking tour” of the East Village with Dan who created Thanks for the Scabies, Jerkface. He is only 21 and is still in school at the University of Kentucky but has already performed in 8 different fringes around. He was an all around nice guy. Go see his show.

It’s good to get to the bottom of your stack of postcards and flyers for a show. I don’t know if it’s worse to do that in 28 degree weather or in 105 degrees. I was certainly less dehydrated by the end of this afternoon but I did sneak in a nice nap. It can feel weird asking people to let you put out your cards. I hate going in places where the postcard area is wrecked and no one’s taken care of it. How is anyone going to find anything? I understand it at dive bars but at New York Theatre Workshop and the Ontological Theatres, it should be better kept. I do try my best to be a good citizen with cards and not knock others out of the way or fight for real estate. The thing I hate most is busking during the actual festival. To see people turn down your cards to your face is awful. Even worse is having them look at it, grill you about it, and then hand it back.

I’ve been doing more online work tonight to raise the show’s presence. I dug on the net and found emails for local universities to send blasts to their students. At this point, my number of sales is holding steady but I think my number of critics coming is going up. Tomorrow I will email people from my personal list and remind media outlets.

Bricken’s friend, Maryanne Ventrice, came to the run in the mini theatre at Roy Arias last night to take some pictures. Maryvel Bergen, my cool lighting designer, and Chris Foster, costume designer and now board op (thank God), were there too. The room is beyond tiny and it is full of crap. You feel like you are playing in someone’s rec room and the junk has been pushed to the sides and covered in curtains. I included a few of my favorites here and added the Uncle Sam, which will be added in the show now. On an odd note: Maryanne sent the link to her Flicker page (she is freakin’ amazing) and on my gmail I get these ads in relation to what is in the email. I don’t know why but one is for a colon cleanser product so I clicked on it. Oh, good Lord, the had all these testimonials with pictures of satisfied customers, and the disgusting shag ropes made of horse anuses and death they scoop up on metal hooks from the toilet to show what was inside them. So gross.

I think I’m going to do that after the run is over. Cleansing, massage, dermabrasion, and teeth whitening. I won’t recognize myself.

Round 2

Completed the second draft of American Badass tonight. When it’s just an edit rather than a full rewrite, I feel like I am cheating. Now that all that writing crap is over, I can rip off the playwright hat and put on the producer hat. I hope to do most of that in the next couple of weeks so I can throw on the actor hat. I feel in a lot of ways, that’s the part of me that’s been the most neglected or abused. So funny since for a long time I had difficulty separating who I am from myself as an actor. Over identification. Maybe that could be a piece. After the next one, which will simply be called Green. My favorite color and it has many connotations. I think I will be focusing mostly on sex and money.
I meet with Chris Foster tomorrow to go over costumes. I haven’t had costumes in a show in a long time. I suppose I could go without but I think it will be a nice addition. She wants to have bigger changes than I would like. I’d like to keep things the same from the waste down, simply because I don’t have a lot of time to change during the show. Spoke with Debby Schwartz about the music for the show. She’s super cool and is going to create a couple new tunes for it. I love how whacky creative she is. She comes up with these great ideas and wants to do all these great little noises and fills in the show. Like a Pink Floyd album. I’d love to get to a point of having a soundscape like that but it would be difficult. I know Laurie Anderson did Spalding Gray’s stuff after it was filmed.
Eric Bogosian would tape record his pieces until they were where he wanted them to be. I feel like writing is better for me. I like having the frame from which to work. Comes from the acting background. I’ve been going back and forth a lot in my own head about my identity as an actor or as a writer. I would like life to have it so I don’t have to choose and can live in an artistic Utah. Part of it is a decision on my part about what I will let myself do or not do. If you give away the milk for free, the universe will respond in kind.
I awoke today with the craziest scramble brain. All these thoughts going, going, going. I find it’s more difficult to get out the door with that. And I had the exact same morning because the commercial I was auditioning for on Friday was postponed until this morning due to a trip to the emergency room for one of the cds. It took me 15 more minutes to get out today and I didn’t have any coffee. Maybe I was groggy from sleep deprivation. The audition was weird. I love how you eventually run into someone from every chapter from your life at auditions.
I talk to regular actors a lot. It’s a different mindset from what I have and possibly why I’m not more of a star. I think I used to have that gene but I gave it up. Sometimes it’s a game you play with your own mind. A friend of mine did a reading with me last night at the Metropolitan Playhouse. He said it’s when you give it all up that usually something lands in your lap. I don’t know about that. I guess it works for him. He’s had a bit more traditional success than I have.
For me, doing the work can’t be about becoming famous or trying to forge a career out of it. At one point I did try to milk that out of it and maybe I could have eventually done that. But why bother birthing a child and rearing it if you’re only going to whore it out? I tell you, doing this stuff keeps you from facing not having anything to do. I don’t know if I like being in that place. I think there’s a balance to be attained.
I hope I can draw a college and high school crowd for this one, if possible. I don’t know if it would appeal but I do want those first time voters coming out to think about what’s going on now.

Monday Monday

Had my second rehearsal for Core Theatre Co’s new series of short works based on the seasons called SPRING. We’ll be reading them on April 16th at 7pm at Center Stage, which is at 48 W. 21st St. on the 4th floor (pay what you will). It’s the old LABrynth Theatre Co. space. Vampire Cowboys are ending a run there this week. My piece is called THE THREE-MONTH FREAK OUT. Tim Flynn and Lisa Bruno are reading it and they do a bang-up job of getting the broken psychology of this pair of people trying to decide whether they should be together.

It was funny at the first rehearsal when I said to Lisa, “It’s like when it’s easier sometimes to let the other person break up with you.” She responded with a “YES!” before she had a chance to think about it. I’ve never done that but I’ve certainly had it done to me. I don’t know why some people would rather let something good fall apart than face it and deal with it. I guess it’s less messy.

It’s been good writing short plays for other people. I’ve been learning my own sense of dramatic structure. Revealing action and character through dialogue rather than monologue, which is what I am more used to doing with solo performance. It’s also nice to sit in the back of the house and take in an audience’s reaction to what you wrote rather than having to keep pumping through the performance. I’ve learned a lot about being clear for the actors. I think if the actors can get what I am writing in the first cold read of a piece then I’ve done my job well enough that the audience will be hooked and go for a ride rather than struggle their way through it. I like making my audiences think, feel, and make connections so they stay alive through a performance but I don’t want them to have to labor. I also like hearing an audience laugh. Usually that lets me know they understand what’s going on.

the winter/spring continuum

I heard yesterday that there are over 200 million blogs on the internet that have been abandoned. This was one of them and now I am hoping to make up for lost time. Since my last post, I’ve written several short plays, performed a revamped version of my solo, ANHEDONIA ROAD, started a solo performance workshop, taught a few hundred kids/teens, and started a run of a play from 1798 called ANDRE. Tonight I felt I was beginning to get sick so I took an Airborne, a Cold-eeze, and 2 Sudafed. Carolyn was kind enough to make me some peppermint tea with honey. If I didn’t have a head cold, that would taste nasty. My body must be throwing in the towel after the stress of opening the show and gearing up for the Times coming out on Monday night. We had a nice full house of allies. My neoroses were getting the better of me as I was doing a New England accent for the first time. More of an historic New England accent with more leanings on the Scottish. I wanted to give the feeling this soldier I play was second or third generation in this country and that he worked hard and had a strong moral center. You don’t get that from the text and our director was pushing for something unique from me. It was birthed rather late in the rehearsal process but I only rehearsed 4 or 5 times. I also have a limp from a wound from a bayonet. If I’m not careful, I can seem kind of pirate-like. Johnny Depp squeezed one Oscar nod out of that and pretty much plumed whatever riches can be found from that.

It’s been a cold couple of days and we were blessed with a little snow today. Last Saturday was in the 50s and I was wearing a light jacket. I bet I got this from Kara Tyler the other day. She is one of the Groove Mama’s in whose space I run my solo performance workshop. I met up to give her back her key and she gave me this nonsense. I’ll get you yet Kara Tyler!! I’m used to having spring come in by now and not getting sick until November. I don’t know about you but I got through most of this winter without a cold and now I’m rambling like some Civil War soldier in a Ken Burns doc. Feel free to add your own violins underneath as you read. It’s blissfully warm in this apartment. The only place I’ve lived in New York without the nefarious chill sneaking in through cracks and enveloping me in a nasty shield of pain. As I was crossing 9th street, I was thinking how I have to sit down and pop out a 10-minute play about spring for Core Theatre Co. I am rarely not inspired but this weather is really busting my chops here.

And what about Captain America dying? I don’t get that. I don’t have much of a relationship with him but still….